Exciting news! It’s been a while in the making, but the EVE Online Reader is now available. Marcus, Kelly and Darryl have crafted an amazing volume of submissions from players and academics from a diverse range of disciplines. It’s a very affordable and accessible book and it’s a thrill to finally have my contributor copies in my sticky little hands. From the website:
The first sustained analysis of the hugely successful and complex MMOG, EVE Online
EVE Online is a socially complex, science-fiction-themed universe simulation and massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) first released in 2003. In this fascinating book, scholars, players, and EVE’s developer CCP Games examine the intricate world of EVEOnline—providing authentic accounts of lived experience within a game with more than a decade of history and millions of “real” dollars behind it.
My own chapter discusses the stereotypes and self-perceptions of Russian EVE players, touching upon Soviet-inspired propaganda, Red Scare rhetoric and EVE history.
If you missed my IR13 talk The Russians Are Coming! Nationhood & Threat Perception in EVE Online – or just want to relive it in the comfort of your own home – here are the slides. I’ve added some presenter notes to guide you through the more obscure parts, which you can view by selecting ‘open in new window’ and clicking the ‘notes’ button at the bottom right. Questions, comments, feedback are all welcome.
I’ll be back in Canada this May for the Canadian Game Studies Association‘s annual conference, where I’ll be talking about the Russian community in EVE Online. I’ll put the paper up here once it’s been delivered at CGSA and explore all these ideas in full, but here’s a brief outline.
My starting point has been to think about how game history interacts with existing cultural and historical stereotypes of ‘Russianness’, so that in-game behaviour comes to be presented as an extension of immutable national characteristics. Russian players are consistently represented by non-Russians as expansionist, ruthless and propagandistic in their military endeavours. There’s a second strand of thought that assumes economic poverty and revolves around the idea that a large proportion of Russian accounts are botters, farming ISK to “feed their families”.
There’s a lot of back and forth about unfair tactics, cheating and griefing as they pertain to the Russian player base, but I think what’s fascinating is the huge furore over what amounts to about 7% of the EVE population. It’s my hypothesis at present that for ‘Western’ players, it’s very convenient to draw upon past history to explain present in-game injustices. Lots of community discourse and meta-analysis about the Russian corporations and alliances in EVE draws upon Cold War terminology: the Russian bear, the Iron Curtain and so on.
This ties into a few pieces of work on griefing as being culturally subjective, in particular Holin Lin and Chuen Tsai-Sun on ‘white-eyed’ player culture, Melinda Jacobs’ article about reactions to Turkish players in Omerta and some really productive conversations with Nick Webber off the back of his griefing talk in Oxford last year.
I’d also like to link this research up to other work being done in EVE, so if you’re working on something or know somebody who is, get in touch!